Browning Leads Money Race Among County Commissioner Candidates
Incumbent out-raises the four-person slate targeting him for defeat.
Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning, who is being targeted for defeat by a slate of four fellow Republicans, has raised $95,751, putting him well ahead of those seeking to unseat him for his controversial vote on a county budget that raised taxes.
In his run to retain one of four at-large county commissioners seats, Browning raised $62,210, according to campaign finance data for the reporting period ending May 2. He went into that reporting period with a balance of $33,541, giving him a total of $95,751. During that time, he spent $55,433, mostly on media buys, polling and campaign mailers.
Targeting Browning for his Oct. 27 vote that enabled the county’s 16 percent tax hike is the slate of Scott Ott, Lisa Scheller, Vic Mazziotti and David Najarian. The four have a political action committee called My Lehigh County, that raised $51,025. Scheller, CEO of Silberline, a Tamaqua-based manufacturing company, was the slate’s biggest fundraiser, garnering $25,000 in contributions for her own campaign committee, but giving $21,000 of that to the PAC, which supports the slate’s efforts. As of May 2, she had contributed $10,000 of her own to the campaign, including $5,000 during this reporting period. She received a $5,400 contribution from Roberta Scheller, the corporate secretary of the family-owned Silberline.
Ott, who narrowly lost the county executive race to Don Cunningham in 2009, received $3,025 in contributions and spent $605, leaving him with cash on hand of $2,419. Mazziotti, former Northampton County fiscal chief, reported $185 in spending on his campaign. Najarian, a Lynn Township supervisor, contributed $3,000 to the slate’s PAC. Each member of the slate reported that receiving campaign advertising ranging in worth from $4,570 to $4,737 from their PAC.
Of the three other Republicans running for at-large county commissioner seats, Brad Osborne loaned his campaign $25,000 and raised another $3,525 during the reporting period. During that time Osborne, a South Whitehall Township commissioner, spent $26,882, mostly on mailers and campaign consultants, including Michael Morey of Easton. Longtime local Republican Party activist Charles Snelling contributed $1,000 to Osborne’s campaign. Snelling also contributed $1,000 to Scheller’s campaign.
Norma Cusick, a Salisbury Township commissioner, raised $8,600, including $5,000 she loaned her campaign. She spent $2,558, mostly on campaign signs. Philanthropist Marlene “Linny” Fowler of Bethlehem gave $2,000 to Cusick’s campaign and Ilene Prokup, the chairwoman of the advisory group that is hoping to persuade Lehigh and Northampton counties to create a bi-county health department, gave Cusick $100. Cusick, whose husband Richard is a doctor, is the only Republican in the race who has said she’d support creating of a bi-county health department.
Mike Welsh, a South Whitehall insurance agent, raised $350 and spent $275 in the race.
Browning’s reports show he took $11,500 from the Lehigh County Victory PAC, which he created in 2009 to support Republican campaigns, including those of fellow commissioners Percy Dougherty and Tom Creighton. Among Browning’s contributors were two Republican former county executives – Jane Baker, who gave $500 and Jane Ervin who donated $100. Former Allentown Mayor Bill Heydt contributed $500 and lobbyist and former state legislator, Joe Uliana gave $500. County solicitor Matthew Sorrentino contributed $1,000 and four of Browning’s co-workers at New World Aviation, where he is chief financial officer, donated a total of $6,500. Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President Tony Iannelli ponied up $500.
Among Browning’s biggest expenses were $18,417 for a mailer, $11,288 for polling and $6,000 for a media buy. He also spent nearly $3,000 on a fundraiser at Cosmopolitan restaurant in Allentown.
Campaign finance reports for the county commissioners are online at the county website at www.lehighcounty.org